Oleksandr Zozulya carved his way through the front runners to eventually cruise to his first victory at the Red Bull Ring, whilst the rest of the pack were held up by Alexander McLaughlin who managed to hold on to 2nd despite damage to his car.
The Kiwi got a terrific start from P2 and got up alongside pole sitter Sergio Alvarez entering Turn 1, but the kerb threw Alvarez into McLaughlin, causing a lot of damage to his right sidepod. Alvarez on the other hand complained about vibrations in the car for the rest of his race following the collision.
The Turn 1 collision caused a consentido effect and eventually led to Zhivko Dimitrov losing control of his car, only for him then to be clipped by Zander Brynildsen. The impact was enough to put them out of the race, as Brynildsen's suspension was in tatters, and Dimitrov only had 3 wheels on his wagon as a result. The safety car was summoned immediately with McLaughlin leading from Alvarez, both with minor damage to their cars.
The biggest winner from the start was Elenor Haugland.The Norwegian was able to avoid Dimitrov by taking a tight line at Turn 1 and found herself up running 17th from 21st on the grid. On the contrary, Hunter Ryan was arguably the biggest loser, as he was right up the exhausts of the leaders, but had to take avoiding action, and in doing so lost places to Vasquez and Zozulya.
Elsewhere, Viktor Ostberg was the ony other driver to gain a place of those in the points scoring positions off the line has he got to Turn 1 ahead of Lucio Valente despite running over some of the debris.
The safety car finally came in with the carnage cleared and McLaughlin almost spun the car at the final corner on the restart, a sign of how difficult his task ahead would be. It caused another consentido effect, thankfully without any collisions, but a few drivers had to take notable action to avoid these collisions. One of these men was de la Fuente, who ran on the grass momentarily allowing Kerzhakov and Ostberg through.
McLaughlin held onto the lead for the first lap, but it was more than clear he was going to struggle to keep it there due to his damaged car. The only person who looked likely to overtake him in the laps after the safety car was Felix Perez, since he was the only driver making moves having started 15th on the grid, As the race approached half distance he made a move on Mike Fredrickson Jr for 12th place.
The further the race went on, the more McLaughlin's car looked like it was riding a surfboard in the fast corners. Finally the camel's back broke smack bang on half distance as he ran wide at Turn 5. Both Alvarez and Vasquez were able to get through, and at the end of the lap the pecking order was as follows:
Surprisingly neither Alvarez or Vasquez were able to gap McLaughlin once they got past. Because of the damage to both Alvarez and McLaughlin, the field was incredibly bunched up, virtually all the way to last place as the race pace was so slow.
Despite the situation overtaking didn't come easy as drivers were still getting to grips with the circuit following the deluge that hit FV practice on Friday. A man however who had a little more track knowledge having run that session was Zozulya.
The Ukrainian saw ahead as both Alvarez and Vasquez had moments in Turn 1. Immediately he would go into McLaughlin's slipstream for the nth time. This time because they both had great runs, they were able to challenge Alvarez and Vasquez, who were going side by side down the windy long straight!
It became 3 wide as McLaughlin veered toward the outside line for Turn 2. Now they ran line astern, with Zozulya suddenly looking to go up the inside of all 3 of them at the last possible second! For those who didn't flinch they saw perhaps overtake(s) of the year. Just like that Zozulya went from 4th to the lead and looked to begin streaking away immediately!
Alvarez still hung on ahead of Vasquez. The 2 South Americans now seemingly in a battle for 2nd in a battle as passionate as CONMEBOL as the crowd went wild every time they flew by. That was until McLaughlin was able to replicate Zozulya's move on the duo, this time at Turn 3 and 4. As he jumped from 4th back to 2nd with his damaged car.
All the jostling allowed Hunter Ryan to come back and take on James Vasquez! For an entire lap they were going left and right all over the circuit, the Colombian putting everything on the line to ensure he would gain as many point as possible on his championship rivals. It came to no avail however as once they got to Turn 2 on the next lap, the Aussie was able to cut back on Vasquez and fly past into 4th place.
Further back there was yellow flags as a car belonging to Luuk van der Straten grounded to an abrupt hault at Turn 5. Replays showed he lost the car on entry, and beached his car in the gravel trap. No safety car was summoned as the race entered the final laps, as the field began to separate as tyre wear increased.
The last lap came around but the action wasn't queite over. Kasami had Ostberg all over his mirrors as did Kerzhakov, who have de la Fuente making a bold move into Turn 1 and he pulled it off in style did the Spaniard. It even rubbed onto his Swedish rival as Ostberg pulled a similar move into Turn 3, ony for Kasami however to fight back and vet back ahead at Turn 5!
It wasn't done there, as Ostberg fought back to snatch back P7 at the penultimate corner. De la Fuente was supposed to be next on the road but he ran wide at Turn 6, losing 2 places to finish the race behind Kerzhakov and Perez!
The only man who didn't finish behind anyone was Oleksandr Zozulya though as he crossed the line to take his first victory of Season 2017, setting the fastest lap in doing so and winning by 4.2 seconds as McLaughlin led Alvarez, then Ryan and Vasquez home. It seemed that was how it would be until post race, where Alvarez was awarded a 5 second penalty for his collision with McLaughlin at the start, demoting him behind Ryan, but just 2 tenths ahead of Vasquez, leaving the final results to look like this:
* Reverse Pole
That concludes the Feature Race here in Spielberg. With Race 2 likely to be wet, you certainly won't want to miss it. See you there!